Lost premiered 12 years ago to the day on ABC. Funny that I should know that, right? Well, I’m coming clean – I freaking loved Lost. Little facts about the island, its inhabitants, and mythology are engraved deep in my psyche. Like Hurley with his numbers, I just can’t get them out of my head.
Lost has been off the air for over six years now and most have moved on. But not this guy. I’m a human being and I demand answers. It’s why things like religion, documentaries and Reddit AMA’s exist. The problem with Lost was that it created far too many questions than it could ever answer. Most shows utilize storytelling techniques like Chekhov’s gun, but rarely does one include Chekhov’s polar bear, smoke monster or hydrogen bomb.
The constant introduction of mythology may have been its undoing, but it’s also what made Lost so damn fun. Lost was one of the first shows that had a truly interactive fan experience. It wasn’t just a show that you tuned into once a week. It was a show that you had to watch every Wednesday because you knew people would be talking about it the next day. If you couldn’t get enough of it during the week, there were plenty of Easter eggs to whet your appetite. Little snippets like the four toed statue or characters crossing paths in flashbacks was all fodder for internet fan theories. It was one of the few consensus shows that was smart television.
That’s not to say Lost was perfect. I feel like when I mention Lost to people they immediately talk about the finale. Though it had a powerful emotional sendoff, Lost did have six years worth of loose ends that it was unable to tie up. Poor, poor Damon Lindelof. Ruthless trolls nearly drove him off the internet and he still has to explain that the island wasn’t purgatory.
(Let’s get this out of the way: The flashsideways was a purgatory detour that ended with all of our characters being reunited in the church so that they could move on together, whereas everything that happened on the island did indeed happen including the magical elements like time travel and the smoke monster. I mean, come on people.)
Then there are the answers. Clearly, when you allow a certain level of nerdom into your show passions go up exponentially.
So it wasn’t surprising that there was a vocal group of critical Lost fans post finale. There are still many things about the show that continue to frustrate me. But I’ve come to terms with the lack of definitive answers. Sometimes, the answers were less than satisfying or not provided at all. There are countless articles written in an attempt to answer said questions. The problem for Lost was that its immense popularity was also a huge constraint. No matter what Lindelof and Cuse concocted for the final three seasons, they had opened too many doors to satisfy the viewers. When they did move in a different way (say, the time travel plot or the Man in Black v. Jacob) people were pissed.
I’ve always wondered what Lost could have been had it been on a network like HBO. Think about Game of Thrones. It’s a hugely popular show that relies on a large cast of characters and complex mythology. Can you imagine if Lost was free to do what they are? They could put out 13 episodes per year with no network limitations. Lindelof and Cuse would probably be jumping into a McDuckian pool of Emmys.
Lost lives on today because it’s a really good show. It proved that character development and deep mythology in a show could get better ratings than mindless shows like Deal or No Deal. I just introduced it to my younger cousins this summer because I know how transcendent the show was for me when I was younger. Also, I’m a horrible person and they haven’t properly experienced emotional distress yet.
So R.I.P. Jack, Kate, Locke and Sayid. You were complex characters on a legendary television show. More importantly, you all dealt with some crazy shit on that island. I might just queue up some of the old classics on Netflix. Let’s just promise to never talk about Nikki and Paolo again.